Keep work and family separate. When the kids are in the house, it’s family time. When the kids are at school, that’s when I do my work. If I have to multi-task, I give the kids a heads-up and make sure they have some projects to do in parallel. For the majority of afternoons when the kids are home from school, we focus on doing things together.
Eat a meal together after school. My children are tired, hot and hungry after school. I always drive straight home to get them comfortable, with time to unwind. A full-plated meal of something like pasta, fruit & cheese gives them enough energy to get through the rest of the day without being cranky. By sitting at the table with them, I keep up my own energy, and we talk about what happened at school.
Disable email from your smartphone. Trips out of the house used to be characterized by staring intermittently at the palm of my hand, checking messages. I was thinking more often about what others had to say rather than the observations and inquisitions of my children. It takes some time to break the habit, but turning email off has been incredibly satisfying. Trips to school and back have been full of conversations. We can learn so much about these budding personalities by tuning in to listen.
Get down to eye level. Saying hello, goodbye, or how are you is so impactful at eye level. A child’s world is most often spent looking up at a grown up and being told what to do. Whenever I get down on a knee and talk to them face to face, I can feel the self-esteem rising. Finally, they aren’t being “told”. Instead, their view of the world is being respected.
Say "no" more than "yes" – and save yes for best. My parenting style is more strict than lenient. I expect my children to behave, and when they don’t, we stop in our tracks until they do. At the ages of 6 & 8, they know most of the rules and do a pretty good job at being respectful. So now, when I say “how about some ice cream?” - little faces light up like a Christmas tree because it's a surprise rather than the norm.
At some point these golden years will be replaced by the ups and downs of tweenhood. I don’t know what my parenting style will be like then, or my sanity. But for now – this is my story and I’m sticking to it.